The 20s took a more dissonant style in classical music. Minimalism, experimentism, modernism and even futurism were important parts of the 20th century. The many prominent composers are enough to fill an encyclopedia, but there are five stand-outs that shaped the century. Igor Stravinsky Influenced by futurism, Igor Stravinsky took bold, primal sounds to his classic scene. His famous ballet, ‘The Spring of Riding,’ even caused a stir after hearing it in Paris. The magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the century. Stravinsky is known as the first great composer of the 20th century, a master of neoclassicism and a strong influence on the performance of how the rest of the century would play out in the classical music world.
Perhaps the most famous conductor of modern classical music, Leonard Bernstein was the music director of the New York Philharmonic for decades. He wrote music for orchestras, films and musicals, his most popular being for ‘West Side Story.’ He has received several Grammy Awards for his work.
With a difficult work palette, even for some classical purists, John Cage is the paradigm for experimental classical music. His most infamous work is’ 4 ’33,’ where the musicians keep their instruments ready to play, but never make the sound. Cage was also a philosopher, who believed that music was all around, not something that could be determined by Western sentimentality. His hyperminimism has later influenced composers such as Philip Glass and electronic music pioneer Brian Eno.
Aaron Copland is an American composer who became known for combining classical and American folk styles. the feel of the western American landscape. His film results for ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘The North Star’ and ‘The Heiress’ are remarkable works.
Just as Copland fused another American style with classical music, George Gershwin invoked jazz in his compositions. Best known for Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin’s music was both slightly melodic and complex in scope. He often worked with his brother Ira, a lyricist who wrote mostly for Broadway musicals.